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Carrickmines, September 3/4

by Simon Williams

Ireland's team of Ed Cunningham, Patsy Fitzgerald, Andrew Johnston, Alan & Ronan McInerney and Simon Williams beat the Great Britain team of Ian Burridge, Marcus Evans, Robert Fulford, Ian Lines, David Maugham and Chris Patmore by 8 matches to 6, with one match unfinished. After winning all three doubles points, the Irishmen took 2 matches of the first series of singles, the winners being Johnston and Williams, and then halved the second series, the winners being Alan McInerney, Williams, and Fitzgerald, who scored the winning point. The first-series match between Alan McInerney and Chris Patmore was suspended until Sunday with the score at one game each. Alan had made a timely recovery to square the match when all seemed lost. In the upper order, Fulford and Maugham, ranked respectively 1st and 3rd in the world, held the Irish charge in check, although Cunningham in particular forced Fulford to produce of his best, a triple Peel in the fifth turn of their first game, and a 10-hoop two-ball break to win the third.
Playing conditions, and the gravity of the occasion, limited the flow of multiple Peels that has been seen recently. Ronan McInerney's match against Robert Fulford was a display of flawless croquet: in the second game, Fulford triple-Peeled his opponent's ball and pegged it out, but Ronan responded immediately with an all-round break on the three remaining balls, to level the score. In the third game Ronan's progress was smooth, and victory was in sight, when he failed to score the penultimate hoop, while attempting to promote his partner ball through in the same shot. This gave the initiative to Fulford, who at the time had not made a single hoop in the game, but went on to win in two breaks, including another triple Peel.
Throughout the match, the Irish team displayed an even-tempered, serious and confident spirit, unlike that of recent years, and all looked very smart in their uniform green shirts. Careful preparation showed in the tidy and straightforward leaves made, the conduct of pegged-out games, and the smooth co-operation of the doubles pairs. The two teams enjoyed a fine Thai dinner in the Beacon Hotel on Saturday night, and would like to thank Harry Johnston and Mary Dobbyn for their work in providing lunch and tea.
I understand that this weekend's match was the first defeat of a "Great Britain" team since 1986! But on a more positive note, it marks a happy return to form of an Irish team that has for some years failed to achieve its potential.